By Tia Lynn Lecorchick editor
The city of Madison and Morgan County recently requested the aid of state tourism experts to evaluate the Convention and Visitor’s Bureau (CVB) tourism model and make recommendations for improvement sometime in January. Bruce Green, a tourism expert from the Georgia Department of Economic Development (GDEcD), brought a 6-person Tourism Product Development Assessment Team to Madison last week to interview local leaders, merchants, and stakeholders about the community’s current tourism model. “We have so many things coming down the pipleline, tourism-wise, this is really a wonderful opportunity,” said Ellen Ianelli, director of the CVB. “We are very fortunate to benefit from the expertise of Bruce Green. It’s definitely a great thing.” “In August, the City and the County requested the assistance of Bruce Green, Tourism Product Development with GDEcD, to assemble a resource team to evaluate Madison/Morgan County’s current tourism program,” explained Ann Huff, special project coordinator for the city of Madison. The CVB is currently under the direction of the Madison-Morgan Chamber of Commerce, funded through the 3 percent of the Hotel/Motel Tax mandated by state law to fund tourism promotion. According to City Manager David Nunn, the city and county just want to acquaint themselves with the tourism models of other areas to ensure Madison-Morgan is offering the best tourism promotion strategies possible. Nunn noted that other communities have a stand alone CVB with its own board, but was uncertain if splitting the CVB from the chamber would be one of Green’s recommendations. “The city and county both want to promote the whole tourism product in whatever would be the most efficient way to do it. We can’t go through those processes until we know what those recommendations are, though,” explained Nunn. “We will have to wait and see.” County Manager Michael Lamar appreciated the interviews, considering the county is ready to step into its role in promoting tourism. “The county has, historically, taken a back seat in this area, because most of the tourism products in this community are in the city of Madison,” explained Lamar. “But I told them I think that is about to change with the coming farmer’s market and zoo…The county would be a little more front and center on some of the tourism decisions because some tourism sites will then be in the unincorporated parts of the county.” “I am not sure what the best model for tourism is. I am guessing the question will be if the CVB would be better placed as a stand-alone or continue to be under asupices of the chamber of commerce,” said Lamar. “At this point, I don’t see any real reason that we would need to break it out.” “But I hope they will find ways to improve our product. It’s always good to objectively look at things and learn what we could be doing better,” said Lamar.